Edward Hopper sold For 6 million at Sotheby’s from Whitney Museum. Klimt Hammer price 46m. Auction Results.

Four more Hoppers still to come this week.

May 16, 2023

Masterworks were auctioned by Sotheby’s in two evening sales in New York on May 16, 2023. The priciest presale estimates and expectations were set on works by Edward Hopper, Rene Magritte*, Gustav Klimt, Vincent van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens and Giacometti. Sotheby’s catalogued 69 lots between the two sales. As the first sale opened no lots were pulled and three women featured: Joan Mitchell (first to announce “Reserve” on the sale, sold for 6.8 million hammer price), Georgia O’Keefe, and Berthe Morisot.

Edward Hopper. Cobb’s Barns, South Truro (1930-33) was slated in the later sale, one of seven works the Whitney Museum of American Art will sell at Sotheby’s this week and the only one tonight (May 16).

Oliver Barker, Chairman Sotheby’s Europe, welcomed and opened the sale at 6:10pm. Lots from Mo Ostin’s estate, a music industry legend and “visionary collector”, were offered first. Both Magrittes from the Ostin sale sold on the lower end of their presale estimate window despite dragging out bids for the first, Lot 3.

images above: selections from the Sotheby’s Mo Ostin Collection 6pm Evening sale 5/16/2023. Stunning trio he had acquired! [Magritte. L’Empire des lumières, 1951, (pre sale est. 35-55 million | hammer price, before fees 36,500,000 ); Magritte. Le Domaine d’Arnheim, 1949 (presale est. 15 mil-25 mil. First time at auction. hammer price 16.2 mil); Mark Tansey. Study for Action painting. 1985. (presale est. 1.5-2 mil | hammer price 2.1)]

images below: selections from the Sotheby’s 7pm Evening Sale 5/16/2023

[Klimt. sold hammer price 46 million; Hammershoi. sold hammer price 7,650,000; Matisse hammer price 3.2; Magritte. passed; O’Keefe passed; Bonnard 3,488,000 with fees; van Gogh sold with fees 23,314,500; Rubens hammer price 22.5 million ; and Hopper sold hammer price 6 million. ]

Oliver Barker opened part 2 of the major evening auction at 7:25 pm.

The intermission pre-hype video before the auction that focused on the Whitney Museum Hoppers, one oil and 3 watercolors from Jo Nivinson Hopper’s bequest, where they remained for more than 50 years and are now to be deaccessioned, was narrated by Lisa Dennison, Chairperson Sotheby’s Americas. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire works of this great American artists with such distinguished provenance.” Gloucester was mentioned and also described “Cape Ann”. Dennison built her career as a museum Curator and Director prior to Sotheby’s. (Inside ball art aside: Adam Weinberg, the Dir. of the Whitney, announced he’s stepping down after some 20 years. Dennison had vied for that position and was courted by several national museums. She helmed the Guggenheim prior to Sotheby’s. Hopper’s New York and the Hopper deaccession were among Weinberg’s last involvements at the Whitney.) The sale is controversial for several reasons despite the good intentions of proceeds promised for new acquisitions at the Whitney. Although this deaccession pales in comparison to the Berkshire Museum’s gutting–especially Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop–it’s still charged. Additionally, the accurate description of the full Hopper bequest falls short at the Whitney on several issues. I’ll write more about that in another post.

Magritte Souvenir de voyage was withdrawn from the sale. The Klimt “celebrating the idyllic shores of Austria” which sold for 46 million was described as “an exquisite painting. Not going to be another one like this coming up for a while.” The two lots following the Klimt, the Georgia O’Keefe and Renoir, failed to sell, or “passed”; the Renoir was removed from the Musee d’Orsay and would have been restitution for the Ambroise Vollard heirs. The Vilhelm Hammershoi interior, Lot 106, rustled up the most active bidding and prompted the only big clap from the audience until Isamu Noguchi Lot 128 The Family reached a 10.4 million hammer price. The Giacometti Lot 129 sold for 24.5 million slightly beneath the presale estimate (25-35 million). “For the very first time ever included in a modern auction. From 1620. In all its glory…” the drumroll opening bid for the Peter Paul Rubens started at 16 million and climbed to 22.5 million (presale estimate 20-30 million), a smattering of applause from the audience. Not an exuberant night for the Magrittes on the block this night or the sale overall. Several lots were announced “pulled” during the later sale.

The Whitney is hoping to sell 3 more works by Hopper along with a Prendergast and a Marin via Sotheby’s sales this week. There is a 4th Hopper drawing to be auctioned from 1899 that isn’t mentioned with the news about the four to be deaccessioned by the Whitney though it should be. Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction continues Thursday.


Images below: Sotheby’s set design and Oliver Barker’s auctioneer style is quite different than Christies, though both use deep leans to emphasize the bidding from opposite sides of the room or seats on the floor. Most of the action was by phone tonight. Barker calls the phone pens that look like a telethon the “telephone aisles” and “there it is” is a favorite catch phrase. Christies did without the “turnstile” and art handlers showcasing the lot front and center as the sale progresses and which I thought I’d miss from the virtual feed. Maybe not: the vibe here was a bit Price is Right meets the spinning dressing table from the 1960s Batgirl tv show. It does help with scale.

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